Many lives of Castle Clinton

A chameleon of function, Castle Clinton had many reincarnations, and it’s not finished changing yet. Built as a fortification, the masonry circular structure has functioned as an exhibition hall, theater, immigration station, public aquarium, and national monument. 1811-1822 Military Fort Along with other forts on Bedloe (Liberty) Island, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island built to…

Jefferson Market Library – details that tell a story

Elaborate buildings’ details are often more than mere decorations–they convey meaning and tell a story. One of the most beautiful structures in New York’s architectural landscape is the spectacular Jefferson Market Library. Built a part of a multifunctional complex that included a jail, a market, and a fire tower, it used to house a courthouse….

Merchant House–a home saved by a love story

There is a lonely 19th-century house on East 4th Street. The only relic from the by-gone era, it owes its survival to a women’s broken heart. The house was bought in 1835 by Seabury Tredwell, a wealthy New York merchant. Mr. and Mrs. Tredwell oversaw a lively household consisting of their eight children, many relatives,…

The Story of Ellis Island

For a nation of immigrants, few locations have greater significance than Ellis Island. But the story of the Island begins way before it became the home of America’s first federal immigration facility. Back in the 17th century, European colonists referred to the island as Little Oyster Island–so named for its abundance of oyster beds. The…

Ellis Island – Immigrant Inspection Process

Ellis Island was the first federal immigration station as well as the largest formal gateway into America for the massive influx of European and Mediterranean immigrants that came throughout first half of the 20th century. In fact, over 40 percent of all living Americans can trace their roots to some ancestor who came this way….

The Four Continents – a Close up

The Four Continents—four statues adorning the facade of the former United States Custom House—are allegorical representations of the four continents: Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. Created by Daniel Chester French, they represent the vision of Custom House architect Cass Gilbert, who chose the theme to represent the building’s main function—international commerce. Flanking the main entrance are…

New York History Timeline

The origins and colonial period 1525   Giovanni da Verrazano – the first European to see Manhattan – Giovanni da Verrazano was an Italian explorer in the service of King Francis I of France.He sailed into New York Harbor in 1524 in search of the Northwest Passage and was the first European to see Manhattan. Even though…

The National Arts Club

The National Arts Club, founded in 1898 and originally located on 34th Street, was conceived as a gathering place for artists as well as art lovers and patrons. National Arts Club members included such luminaries as Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the foremost American sculptor of the late 19th century; Daniel Chester French, best known for his design…

Union Square Drinking Fountain

A female personification of Charity—a woman with two children holding a water pitcher—is not just a statue . . . it used to be a drinking fountain. One of the oldest in the NYC park system, the Union Square Drinking Fountain is also called James Fountain, reflecting the name of its donor, philanthropist Daniel Willis…

Hess Triangle — the smallest piece of private property in New York City

The tiny triangle in front of Village Cigars on Seventh Ave proudly displaying the words “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes” can easily be overlooked. Despite its small size, however, the triangle has a large story. In order to lay down new subway lines and extend 7th Ave…

The General Worth Monument—a gravesite in the middle of Broadway

The small pedestrian island bordered by 25th Street, Broadway, and 5th Avenue—where people regularly enjoy views of the Flatiron while reading, talking, sunbathing, or having a light snack—is actually a burial ground. The body of General Worth, hero of the Mexican War of 1846-1848, rests in peace under the obelisk. Most find their final resting…

Chester Arthur: the statue that kept losing its glasses

Sculptor: George Edwin BissellArchitect: James Brown LordDedicated: 1899 When serving as the 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur exceeded all expectations. This was due in large part to the fact that nobody expected that much . . . One of the least-remembered presidents, he was known during his lifetime to be an exceptional…